LONDON – Christian leaders are defending the historicity of the biblical Great Flood account after an ancient Middle Eastern tablet that contradicts the Genesis narrative was exhibited at the British Museum.
Late last month, the British Museum put on display a cell-phone-sized clay tablet which experts say is nearly 4,000 years old. Though the relic was found over 7o years ago in the Middle East by a British pilot, the cuneiform script inscribed on the tablet was just recently translated. Irving Finkel, a British Museum expert, interpreted the text.
According to a report from The Guardian, Finkel determined that the tablet recounts a flood legend. In the story, a god commands Sumerian king Atram-Hasis to build a circular boat.
“Wall, wall! Reed wall, reed wall!” the relic’s text reads. “Atram-Hasis, pay heed to my advice, that you may live forever! Destroy your house, build a boat; despise possessions and save life! Draw out the boat that you will build with a circular design; Let its length and breadth be the same.”
Finkel asserts that the tablet shows that Noah’s ark was most likely a small coracle—unlike the massive ark proportions described in Genesis chapter six.
“In all the images ever made people assumed the ark was, in effect, an ocean-going boat, with a pointed stem and stern for riding the waves—so that is how they portrayed it,” he said, according to The Guardian. “But the ark didn’t have to go anywhere, it just had to float, and the instructions are for a type of craft which they knew very well. It’s still sometimes used in Iran and Iraq today, a type of round coracle which they would have known exactly how to use to transport animals across a river or floods.”
Finkel believes the biblical account of the Great Flood is not historical, but is instead based on Babylonian myths.
“I’m sure the story of the flood and a boat to rescue life is a Babylonian invention,” he stated.
Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, disagrees with Finkel’s assertion. In a blog post published last week, Ham said the Babylonian flood account was likely based on the biblical narrative.
“I say it’s really the other way around!” he wrote. “There are flood legends in cultures all over the world because there really was an actual global Flood—Noah’s Flood. As the account of the Flood was handed down (and particularly as people spread out around the world after the Tower of Babel), it was changed by many cultures.”
“Yet many of these legends (including the Babylonian ones) have similar elements to the Bible’s account,” Ham added. “Because the Bible is God’s inspired word, it gives us the true account. The other flood legends are man’s changed versions of the event called Noah’s Flood, which occurred close to 4,400 years ago!”
In an article published last week, Tim Chaffey of Answers in Genesis further elaborated on the Noah’s Ark controversy.
“Should this tablet ‘cause consternation among believers in the Biblical story’ as [an Associated Press] article suggests?” Chaffey asked. “Of course not—in fact, this is just another archaeological find that corroborates the biblical Flood account. It is only reasonable that people in cultures the world over—being descended from the eight people that got off the Ark—would recall various versions of the Flood in their cultural memory and traditions.”
Chaffey also asserted that the biblical dimensions of Noah’s Ark are much more realistic than flood legends around the world, having the right proportions for strength, stability, and comfort. On the other hand, argued Chaffey, a circular ark design—like the one described on the British Museum’s tablet—would be incapable of surviving the flood waters.
“We know that skeptics will continue to attack the biblical accounts of Creation and the Flood,” Chaffey concluded. “This is precisely what Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote to his readers in 2 Peter 3:1–7. Rather than causing consternation among believers, Christians can rejoice that God has given us the true history of our world beginning in Genesis. This latest tablet actually corroborates the biblical record of the Flood and the Ark.”
Photo: British Museum